Alex and I have created a new show: Sex, Lies & Improvisation, an improvised comedy about lying together. We’re touring it across the North this autumn but we can’t do that without a network of awesome improvisers who run great events in their improv communities. I want to celebrate those people with this blog series.
Ladies and gentlemen, these are…The Improv Community Heroes!
Hero Fact File:
Name: Noel Curry
Location of Hero-ing: Leeds
Community events: Leeds Improv Jam, intensive workshops, The Glorious Free Republic of Yorkshire Radio Show.
Troupe: Super Trooper Improv
Rachel: How did you get into improvisation?
Noel: I was doing stand-up and decided to do an improv course to help me loosen up on stage a bit. I just got into improv more and more until I stopped doing stand-up so I could focus solely on the improv.Compared to stand-up, it’s a lot more sociable and collaborative. I’ve realised that I much prefer doing things together and enjoy the idea of finding a place on stage that neither of you would have got to on your own.
Noel: It’s based on the improv jam that Duck Duck Goose run in Brixton. Two groups come to perform and we also have an audience jam. Anyone can stick their name in the bucket and they perform a two-person scene based on a one-word suggestion from the audience. We then end the night with a group scene and anyone whose name was in the bucket can come back up, if they fancy it.
Rachel: That sounds fun!
Noel: I try to create a welcoming, friendly vibe at the jam with an “it’s OK to fail” ethos, as some of the people might be performing in public for the very first time. I’ve taken courses with Discount Comedy Checkout, Laugh At Leeds and Hoopla and they’ve all shown me that creating a positive atmosphere is the way to get the best out of people.
Rachel: What drives you to do good things for the improv community?
Noel: Mainly the example of other people. Because improv is all about being helpful and supportive, it tends to attract helpful and supportive people. This first course I did was run by Chris Lumb, whose group Discount Comedy Checkout is the longest-running group in Leeds, and he’s always been helpful and encouraging towards all the other groups that have started in Leeds.
Rachel: What are the best things about your improv community?
Noel: I like how eager people are to share and learn from each other. Everyone is happy to teach the games they like to play, without getting proprietorial about them. And there’s a refreshing lack of hierarchy. If you’re an improviser then your opinion is valid, regardless of whether you’re a beginner or a veteran.
Rachel: What does an improv community need to thrive?
Noel: I think the improv scene is thriving. What will build it more is getting audiences more familiar with the different forms of improv. It’s easy to end up performing only to other improvisers and then it can become clique-y and self-referential. Going to see some improv should be like going to see stand-up or live music. You shouldn’t need any prior knowledge in order to “get it”.
Rachel: What have you learned about life from being an improv community hero?
Noel: I’m now better at living in the moment and appreciating what’s happening in the now, rather than worrying about the past or the future. My partner has also said that I’ve become a better listener.
Rachel: What’s challenging about being an improv community hero?
Noel: Laundering my cape is a real hassle.